Technology has become an integral part of our lives. All of us use gadgets such as TV, smartphones, tablets to entertain ourselves and our kids. The duration of exposure to such gadgets is known as “screen time”. This includes the time when the child is actively watching the screen or the TV is playing in the background.
In the past, when there were no such gadgets, the kids especially toddlers kept themselves busy by doing one thing or the other. While parents believed their kids were being naughty, it was in fact their creative brain at work, in a beautiful way. What I am noticing in my practice nowadays is that many parents, because of their busy routines, or because they are tired or exhausted resort to exposing the kids to different gadgets to keep them engaged /distracted. This is more so at feeding / meal time.
This article mentions the harmful effects of screen time, screen time recommended at different ages and how to avoid/control screen time for our kids.
Effects of Screen time:
It has been increasingly recognized that exposing the kids to gadgets at a tender age especially 0-2 years is extremely harmful for brain development. It doesn’t allow them to think and reduces their attention span. They lose their innate ability to think creatively when faced with a problem and prevents their ability to reason / question.
Delayed Speech development: When a child watches a screen, s/he just sees and hears it, and there is no two-way interaction. This impacts the speech development of the child as there is no opportunity to talk.
Poor Social and communication skills: Since the interaction with living beings is curtailed due to exposure to gadgets, the child loses on the ability to argue, to discuss and to win a point, resulting in weakening of social and communication skills.
Loss of focus: The brain constantly needs stimulation to stay engaged. Kids who are exposed to TVs, mobiles etc. become totally dependent on these for entertainment. They are not able to develop activities from their own imagination. They lose their concentration and focus, as they are distracted by the interaction with different media.
Recommended Screen time:
It is recommended that we avoid exposure to any gadgets till the age of 2 years. Post that, they may be shown TV/mobiles/tablets at the rate of 5 minutes per year of age (15 minutes for a 3 years old, 20 minutes for a 4 year old and so on).
How to avoid/control screen time:
Plan when s/he is asleep: When the child is asleep, plan how to keep him/her engaged once s/he wakes up. You may browse through internet or discuss with other parents / caregivers to find out activities relevant to your child. Try all these activities on the child, and note what is of interest to him/her and continue those regularly.
Use traditional methods: Make use of toys, old utensils, colors which the child can touch and feel, and play with. You may keep a collection of toys utensils etc. Avoid the same toy daily so that you bring out something new every day.
Fix the feeding location: Don’t walk around with your child when you are feeding him/her. Fix a feeding place and stick to it. This will be eventually accepted and become a part of the routine.
Following these basic methods might help you in keeping your child away from gadgets, and hopefully ensure a healthy mental development of your little one.